Saturday, January 02, 2010

The possible double entendre of Lo Yasur Shevet Miyhuda

In Yehuda's bracha, it is possible that there is a double meaning. That is, I think almost certainly this was intended for praise:

ט  גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה, מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי עָלִיתָ; כָּרַע רָבַץ כְּאַרְיֵה וּכְלָבִיא, מִי יְקִימֶנּוּ.9 Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?

but the alternative parse of miteref beni yields a reference to Yehuda's somewhat low point.

Thinking it over, I think it quite plausible that the other famous pasuk, of ad ki yavo Shilo, also has dual meaning:

י  לֹא-יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה, וּמְחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו, עַד כִּי-יָבֹא שִׁילֹה, וְלוֹ יִקְּהַת עַמִּים.10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.

This is a prediction or blessing regarding his rule, that he shall always rule. Ad ki yavo Shilo as JPS translates it means "so long as men come to Shiloh", presumably Mishkan Shiloh. And perhaps we can say after that the Beit Hamikdash, where fealty towards the religion led to fealty toward the king?

Regardless of what the pasuk means, I think there is a second meaning, once again hinting at some negative incident in his life. Consider לֹא-יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה, that the staff shall not leave his hand. Then consider that after he slept with Tamar, thinking her a prostitute, he gave her a pledge:

יח  וַיֹּאמֶר, מָה הָעֵרָבוֹן אֲשֶׁר אֶתֶּן-לָךְ, וַתֹּאמֶר חֹתָמְךָ וּפְתִילֶךָ, וּמַטְּךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדֶךָ; וַיִּתֶּן-לָהּ וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ, וַתַּהַר לוֹ.18 And he said: 'What pledge shall I give thee?' And she said: 'Thy signet and thy cord, and thy staff that is in thy hand.' And he gave them to her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

That is, based on וּמַטְּךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדֶךָ, in this instance, the staff did leave Yehuda! And what about וּמְחֹקֵק? This could be the match of staff, as in the translation above. And we have the same staff by Tamar. But it could also be something which makes an imprint, for the sake of e.g. enacting legislation or signing legal documents. In which case it might find its match in חֹתָמְךָ. For what cause would it leave, or should it not leave? מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו. Finally, what was the cause of this? עַד כִּי-יָבֹא שִׁילֹה. That is, because Shelah had delayed in coming. As we read earlier in the narrative:

יא  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְתָמָר כַּלָּתוֹ שְׁבִי אַלְמָנָה בֵית-אָבִיךְ, עַד-יִגְדַּל שֵׁלָה בְנִי--כִּי אָמַר, פֶּן-יָמוּת גַּם-הוּא כְּאֶחָיו; וַתֵּלֶךְ תָּמָר, וַתֵּשֶׁב בֵּית אָבִיהָ.11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter-in-law: 'Remain a widow in thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown up'; for he said: 'Lest he also die, like his brethren.' And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

Compare with עַד-יִגְדַּל שֵׁלָה בְנִי.

This just struck me as a possibility, and so I thought to write it down before I forgot it.


yaak said...

There is also another meaning that I just heard over Shabbat: Shevet as tribe - not staff - meaning, the tribe of Yehuda lasted throughout all generations (which is why we are called "Yehudim"), unlike the other tribes, with the possible exception of Levi. But Levi had to earn their place later at Mt. Sinai - at the time of these Berachot, it wasn't yet a given.

joshwaxman said...

interesting. as an extra meaning, of course, since Biblical parallelism almost demands in both cases that it means staff, as JPS translated above...


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

that is very cool and very creative

joshwaxman said...



Blog Widget by LinkWithin